"I'm so glad my little girl is growing up with a fit and happy mum"
Start weight: 20st 5lb | Weight loss: 10st 4lb
Current weight: 10st 1lb
Height: 5' 5" | Age: 43
Studio: Sherborne, Dorset
Wellness Coach: Becky Birch
Sitting in my car outside the local community centre in January 2016, I cried.
For 10 minutes I’d been trying to build up the courage to walk into my first Wellness Workshop, but I was too terrified of what the scales would say. Then, as my four-month-old daughter Ella started babbling happily in her car seat behind me, I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. I had to do this for her.
I’d struggled with my weight since I was a teenager, secretly scoffing crisps in my bedroom. At school, I became the jolly big girl and later, the bubbly barmaid and chef – a fun career, but terrible for my waistline! I’d pick at food all day and unwind in the evening chatting to customers over pints of lager. I’d go on a diet occasionally, then bask in people’s compliments. But I always found the aroma of freshly baked rolls or roast potatoes in the restaurant kitchen impossible to resist. Food was my source of comfort too.
During my first marriage in my 20s, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, which reduces fertility. I suffered a miscarriage, then tried a course of fertility-boosting injections. When that failed, I signed up for IVF. But the pressure was too great and my marriage fell apart while I was waiting for treatment. Suddenly, I was single and struggling with the knowledge I might never be able to have children.
Then in 2012 I met David. He was a regular at the pub where I worked. Both single and without children, we decided to make the best of our lives – socialising, travelling and eating out. David loved food, but never gained weight, whereas I had to find a size-20 dress for our wedding in June 2014. That Christmas, I felt absolutely shattered but didn’t know why. Despite how pointless it seemed to be, I took a pregnancy test. When David and I saw it was positive, we were overjoyed. My pregnancy was difficult, with terrible morning sickness, raging heartburn and severe pelvic pain, but it all became worth it when Ella was born in September 2015
'You don’t want Alex in there – look at the state of her,’
my mum Pauline said as my father-in-law snapped photos of Ella and the family. Trying to be helpful, Mum had always nagged me about my weight, but at that moment everything crystallised. I was an older mum – as the midwives kept telling me – and I wanted to be around for my daughter’s wedding day. I realised that if I didn’t tackle my weight, I might not be. Mum now feels guilty about how blunt she’d been, but it did push me to join WW.
At that first meeting I asked my Wellness Coach to hide my weight card, so I could read it once I’d left. Looking at the card in my bedroom at home and seeing 20st 5lb, I burst into tears. Despite how upset it made me, I felt determined and during my first week I lost more than 7lb. As a chef, I found the programme easy and would tinker with recipes to reduce the SmartPoints as much as possible. I also spent hours finding healthy alternatives to takeaway meals, making my own version of all my favourite fast foods to have on the weekend as a pick-me-up. I call these recipes my ‘healthy hybrids’, because they mimic the taste of many foods I used to love, but have far fewer SmartPoints. Result!
Over time I noticed that greasy foods no longer appealed to me the way they use to, so it became even easier for me to avoid temptation. I started every day with a good breakfast, so I didn’t feel tempted to snack. And, because I know how important it is to enjoy a treat now and then, I’d save my weeklies for a Chinese takeaway and a glass of wine.
I started exercising too,
walking before breakfast with our spaniel Bertie and Ella in her buggy. It helped me physically and mentally, and kept me focused. I was too intimidated to go to a gym, but my slow 10-minute ambles quickly built up to 30-minute walks, and now I often walk for 5k. I absolutely love it, plus it's a great time to chat to Ella and get some fresh air. I’ve always tried to be really honest with myself – never making excuses for going off track but dealing with wobbles by giving myself a stern talking to. Making sure I give myself enough me-time has helped me keep a positive mindset too. But of course I’ve struggled at times. Whenever I came across an obstacle or felt a bit down, David gently reminded me just how brilliantly I’d done. Other WW Members have also been a great source of encouragement, especially when I’d share progress pictures on Connect. Reading the lovely comments from some of my 7000 followers always spurred me on.
A non-scale victory
was finding a pair of brown knee-high boots that actually zipped up over my calves. I jumped up and down in the shop with excitement. Joining WW has been a positive change for my whole family, and healthy meals are now the norm at home. But they’re never boring. Ella, now two, loves my homemade chicken nuggets with wholemeal breadcrumbs and chips cooked in the ActiFry. She also gets involved with arranging the toppings on pizza night. I’m so glad she’s growing up with a fit, happy mum and I feel honoured when she asks me to guard her mini bags of sweets from Daddy (who’s known to always pinch a few!). Last Mother’s Day, we took Bertie with us on a day out at the beach, playing on the sand with a bucket and spade. David gave me a beautiful charm engraved with the words ‘Sweet Mother’, which made me cry. This year I’ll be even more emotional as I have even more to celebrate – I can’t wait.